Not one of National Artists for Film an ‘actor only’
That Nora Aunor’s fans are now up in arms on reading the news report “6 new National Artists named; Nora Aunor snubbed” (Front Page, 6/22/14) can only be expected. Indeed, most Filipino moviegoers have optimistically looked forward to seeing one among Nora (the Superstar), Vilma Santos (the Star for All Seasons), and Dolphy (the Comedy King) as the new National Artist for Film. That, especially after Fernando Poe Jr., the generally acknowledged King of Philippine Action Movies, won that highly coveted award in 2006.
The fans’ frustrations must have known no bounds after realizing that Aunor was reportedly the only nominee recommended by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) who was not chosen by President Aquino. According to an anonymous source, the President chose not to confer the Order of National Artist on Aunor because her involvement in illegal drugs in the United States (to which she pleaded guilty sometime in 2007) might taint the credibility of the distinguished award. Maybe true, may be not! But I do not wish to quarrel with the presidential prerogative, which no less than the Supreme Court had previously recognized.
At any rate, the “Noranians” might probably find some consolation by objectively revisiting the facts regarding the only five National Artists for Film we have had so far in the last 30 years: Gerardo de Leon (1982), Lino Brocka (1991), Ishmael Bernal (2001), Eddie Romero (2003), and Fernando Poe Jr. (2006). Note that they had one thing in common: not one was an “actor only.” Both De Leon and Brocka were film directors; Bernal was film-stage-television director, actor and scriptwriter rolled into one; Romero was director, producer and scriptwriter; while FPJ, besides being an actor, also wrote the story, directed and produced most of his films. One hastens to recall the names “D’lanor” and “Ronwaldo Reyes” along this light. I mean, were not these five awardees’ respective qualifications sufficient indication to us that one needs to be much more than a plain actor per se, no matter how extremely he or she has excelled as such, in order to be rightly nominated for National Artist for Film? Indeed, one wonders why the members of this year’s NCCA and CCP screening panels seem to have failed to consider this important fact in nominating Aunor.
I dare say that this criterion should not be perceived as entirely illogical, unreasonable or questionable. For one thing, we can all agree that acting as an art is just one of several critical components of filmmaking. For another, an actor or actress may possess truly outstanding prowess, but let’s face it: He or she merely essentially follows that which the director wishes and says.
Meanwhile, the fans (I’m one of them) of Eddie Garcia, one of the most seasoned, versatile and multiawarded actors-directors in our midst and times, probably need not become pessimistic or hopeless in this regard. I can only hope and pray—even as I know the government saves a lot financially in naming a national artist posthumously—that Garcia would reap his own award while still with us.
—RUDY L. CORONEL,
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